Monday, November 26, 2007


Quiet Riot singer found dead in Las Vegas
I didn't even know anyone who knew (or cared, i guess) that he lived out here!

Oh well, the best thing they ever did was cover Slade and they said that the producer made them do that and they didn't even like the song! They lost what little respect i had for them once i heard that!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Control - a movie by Anton Corbijn

Venturing out on a rare exodus to a movie theater, my wife (a photographer and fan of Corbijn) made it out to see Anton’s film dedicated to Ian Curtis and Joy Division.

While I’m not a Joy Division fanatic, I did always like their music, and was interested to see how this movie would represent the scene and the times – something that many films have failed to do.

Unlike the cartoonish quality of, say, “Sid and Nancy”, this focuses on real people with real problems, real dreams and real qualities. This follows Ian from a teenage glam-rock fan through his teenage marriage, his epilepsy, depression, mistress and, of course, his band.

The band’s quick rise to fame, but not to wealth, caused many a problem with his wife, who became pregnant as the band started its incline, and his day job, which was lost, causing his wife to become the bread winner as he continued to follow his dream.

Trying to find the right medication to control his seizures, side effects contribute to his natural depression, which is compounded by his affair to Annik, a Belgium fan and writer (and Embassy worker). The stress of the band and his two love affairs eventually become too much for Ian and we all know how that ends.

Beautifully filmed by Anton in black and white, the movie looks great, sounds great (I understand that the actors actually learned to play the instruments and perform the soundtrack) and tells a heartfelt story. While there may be a small chronological error or two, Anton keeps the look and feel of the time (the two concerts that the characters go to – Bowie and the Pistols – do not show the performers, just the characters’ reactions, which was very smart) and succeeds in a sympathetic and interesting tale.

Check out the movie's official website for trailers and more information.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Electric Ladyland 33-1/3 by John Perry

This is actually the first book of this series that I read and I wasn’t certain what I thought about it until I understood the format a little better. Now, reading it over again, I think that it is one of the better installments.

Opening with an explanation of Jimi’s career at the time of the recording, Perry immediately informs the reader of some of the limitations that Hendrix was overcoming at the time – musically and financially – and the fact that this album represented his artistic freedom for the first time in his short career. He finally had the time and the money to record as he wanted, when he wanted and with whom he wanted. John even goes into a couple of small technical details right off the bat – which is something that any musician will be interested in.

He then talks about the then-new technical advances in studios, as well as the fact that Hendrix was looking into working with other musicians to get other results, though he had no problem with using the studio to overdub himself in places when necessary.

Perry spends a couple of chapters giving an overall of Hendrix’s professional life, from his appearance in England (the author saw an early Experience show at a small ballroom before Jimi was hyped beyond reason) to one of his last shows (which the author also experienced) at the Isle of Wright. John does continue to give some insights into Jimi’s techniques and the equipment that he used throughout these stories. The combination of the personal with the technical is something that I can appreciate.

Perry, a guitarist himself, gives a run down on every track on the album, listing tricks, techniques and studio tools used throughout the record. He balances personal opinions and reflections with factual information, making it enjoyable to everyone – at least, I would think so! It certainly is entertaining to a fellow musician!

He details the musicians on each track – the Experience doesn’t play on a number of the cuts, especially Noel Redding, who was on the verge of quitting the band. There are mentions of earlier takes and even demos to show the growth of the song and sometimes John will mention the different amps or pedals that are being used. Great stuff!

I don’t want to get into specific detail about all of the songs, because Perry does a nice job of it all - I wouldn’t do it justice to try to condense it all. But, this book does do what I think this series should do – give the balance of subjective and objective with a fan’s enthusiasm.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ramones 33-1/3 by Nicholas Rombes

As I’ve said, I like the concept of this series, though the execution isn’t always stellar. I really enjoyed the MC5 Kick Out the Jams book, but I’m not so sure about this particular installment.

Having lived through the original punk movement and having previously loved the bands that influenced the scene, the fact that over half of this small tome is dedicated to background on punk in general doesn’t inspire me. I really wanted to learn more about the actual sessions, rather than the standard “it was recorded in 17 days for $6400”. (Funnily enough, while that was a miniscule sum at the time, since then many, many bands have made albums for far less time and money. I’ve probably recorded 3 albums or more for that!)

Rombes spends several pages debating the original use of the word “punk”, it’s pop culture significance and when it first was used in terms of r’n’r, all of which is fairly silly and slightly pointless. Obviously, there were many precursors to 1977 punk, but the Ramones were the first band to start this new music genre that has become known as punk rock. Sure, some people like to argue this point, but to do so is senseless and a tangent that I felt unnecessary for the book.

I understand that this series does require some background to fit the record into its proper perspective and maybe it is just my age that makes me think this way, as I did not feel that in the MC5 book. Maybe I felt this because the background here was overall more general and not directly related to the Ramones. But some of it is interesting and engaging. That said I do believe that there should be limits to the tangents.

Since my sense of chronology is always faulty, it is interesting to note certain pop culture references that were current at the time, or just before, the recording of this album. Movies such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Taxi Driver were recent releases and Performance (with Mick Jagger) and Russ Meyer’s Super Vixens were playing theaters as the Ramones were playing CBGBs. So, it wasn’t simply 60’s pop culture that they were taking their ideas from – it was the world they saw every day.

In referencing the album itself, Rombes doesn’t get into much technical detail, unfortunately. It is mostly his own feelings regarding the songs interspersed with a few reminiscences from producer Craig Leon (which are interesting). Nicholas is of the philosophy that the song-writers intentions are not as important as the listener’s reactions. As such, he spends almost two pages on Joey’s “second verse, same as the first” line in “Judy is a Punk” without once mentioning – or seeming to think that it is relevant – the blatant fact that Joey is using this Herman’s Hermits reference to wear his influences on his sleeve and as a touchstone to people who might not otherwise understand their pop sensibilities.

It is somewhat fascinating and perplexing that Nicholas continues to push the idea that punk was more conservative than most people think. Sure, there were some conservatives in the scene - Johnny Ramone being the most obvious example - but overall, it was, and remains, liberal. There are probably more cons these days, since the hard core movement brought the jocks into the picture. But as a general rule, it was usually more non-political or progressive than right-wing. Apparently, he brings this up to question whether the Nazi references in their music are serious, but I don’t know of anyone who ever thought that.

He does end the book with the observation that "selling out" was not a part of the original punk legacy. Bands – especially the Ramones - wanted to make it - be popular, make money! There was nothing wrong with that and people who now equate “selling out” with “earning cash” miss the point completely. “Selling out” once meant turning your back on your artistic vision for the sake of money – not simply being able to afford to eat! Musicians want people to hear their music – that is part of the point of this art form! Anyone who says anything different is either lying or deluding themselves.

The book is not bad, and there are many other books on the band available these days that do go into far more detail, but I felt that this does not really explore the album in as much depth as is expected from this series.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Grit Noise and Revolution - The Birth of Detroit Rock'n'Roll by David A. Carson

This book is a comprehensive overview of the Detroit r’n’r scene which basically started in the 40’s with the unique blues sounds of John Lee Hooker. Moving into the 50’s, vocal groups such as Hank Ballard and Thee Midnighters and Andre Williams (as a member of the Don Juans) were bursting from the streets and taking over the country. Of course, the 60’s is when Detroit literally exploded musically, culturally and politically.

As much of a fanatic as I am regarding Detroit r’n’r, there is plenty in here that I knew nothing about and the stories are augmented by some amazing pictures. I am particularly enamored with a couple of amazing photos of the early Bob Seger System playing a small club and looking like some of the trashiest rockers from any underground scene instead of the slick performer that he became.

But, I’m getting ahead of the book here. The 60’s start out in Detroit with Berry Gordy forming the Tamla record label, which would eventually evolve into Motown Records. The r’n’b scene grew with greats such as Della Reese, Barrett Strong, Jackie Wilson and Smokey Robinson coming out of the city.

The early local r’n’r movement of the late 50’s and early 60’s included such bands as Johnny and the Hurricanes and solo artists such as Del Shannon. David tells the story of a young white singer names Billy Lee who was turning heads in the black, r’n’b community. Once he hooked up with the local band, the Rivieras, they took Detroit by storm – blowing away national acts that they would regularly open for. Eventually, they were brought to New York to record and their manager didn’t like the name, so opening the phone book, changed Billy Lee to Mitch Ryder and the band to the Detroit Wheels. Their first single was a country-wide smash, “Jenny Take a Ride”.

As the 60’s continued, more and more bands came up from the ranks. Suzi Quatro led the sexy, sassy and talented all-female Pleasure Seekers, who recorded the oft-covered teen anthem to drinking “What a Way to Die”. The Rationals, led by Scott Morgan (later of Sonic’s Rendezvous Band and who is still playing to this day), broke out with their brand of white-boy r’n’b. Question Mark and the Mysterions took over the nation with their smash “96 Tears”. Carson recounts many of the other Detroit bands’ local hits, as well.

There is a return to the immensely influential Motown Records story in one chapter, listing many of the artists as well as the local white boys' reactions to the grooves. Bassist James Jamerson is especially cited as a big influence among many musicians throughout the city as well as the country.

The next section documents the rise of John & Leni Sinclair and the Detroit Artists' Workshop, as well as their growing relationship with aspiring rockers, the MC5. As this association evolved into Trans-Love Energies, it became more involved in the local music scene as a management team, graphic artists creating band posters, rehearsal space and more. The rise of the all-important Grande Ballroom is also given plenty of space.

The Detroit riots of '67 are detailed in the following chapter, including the author's reminiscence of almost driving right into the middle of the melee! This affected pretty much everyone in the city one way or another and certainly worked its way into the sounds emanating from the locals.

Carson focuses on the Detroit scene that we all know and love and as such he detailed the meteoric rise of sudden fall of the MC5. They seemed to be poised to take over the music world when the backlash hit and hit hard. In hindsight, they made incredibly bad choices, as well, but they were caught up in the times and weren't necessarily thinking of their "careers". Sad to think where this world might have gone if the MC5 had become popular! Hard to even imagine...

As he has throughout the book, he continues to discuss the importance of media to the scene. Obviously, the AM and FM radio stations and DJs were extremely important, and he also catalogs the start of Creem magazine - one of the best r'n'r rags ever.

Some time is naturally spent on the late 60’s white soul bands that gained nationwide popularity such as Flaming Ember with "Westbound #9" and Rare Earth and their versions of Motown's (the label that they were signed to) "I Know I'm Losing You" and "Get Ready".

Terry Knight in the Pack went through many evolutions before becoming Grand Funk Railroad, which made their mark in other parts of the country while Detroit thought of them as minor traitors for not building their reputation in the city first. Unfortunately, too many local bands who did well in city never broke out of those confines.

Another band featuring Detroit-born Vincent Furnier had actually started in Phoenix as Alice Cooper, where the singer moved as a child, put out two albums on Frank Zappa's Straight Records in LA and then returned to Detroit due to the reception they would receive when they would play there and the fact that they related to the local scene. About this time, their Love It To Death LP was released and local radio station CKLW broke their fantastic single "(I'm) Eighteen". That grew exponentially until it was another nationwide hit from the Detroit area.

But bands like Alice Cooper and Grand Funk Railroad were the exception to the rule and as the MC5 was crashing and burning in a haze of drugs, so was the entire Detroit scene. Heroin came into the picture and destroyed many bands. Clubs and ballrooms could no longer make ends meet, corporate rock steamrollered over the small bands and even Motown Records left the city.

While bands still formed and found places to play, the amazing cohesive scene never again was recreated and while some groups have still come from the area and risen to fame (i.e. the White Stripes), it will never be the same.

I am discovering little factual errors and typos (and some bigger ones, such as implying that Ron Asheton was still playing guitar in the Raw Power-era Stooges), so, as with most rock books, I tend to believe the gist rather than the details. But David has done some major research and tells the story in a way that draws the reader in. Well worth it to any lover of this city and the incredible music that came out of it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels - Rev Up The Best of...(Rhino Records)

I know that this white r’n’b sensation needs no introduction – if you don’t know who this man and this band is then you’ve been living in a cave for the last few decades!

This is a nice best-of collection – again, for me this purchase was a way to get the hits on one convenient CD, rather than getting all of the albums on CD.

The hits are all accounted for here – “Jenny Take a Ride”, “Little Latin Lupe Lu”, “Shakin’ With Linda”, “Break-Out!”, “Devil With a Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly”, “Sock it to Me Baby!”, “I’d Rather Go to Jail” and many more – including Mitch’s version of Lour Reed’s “Rock’n’Roll” with his band called Detroit.

If you don’t already own anything by this pioneer of high-energy white r’n’b/r’n’r, then this is a great starting point. Or if, like me, you just want the hits all in one place, this is the place! One way or another, everyone needs some Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Kick Out the Jams 33-1/3 book by Don McLeese

This is the second book in the “33-1/3” series of books that I’ve read and I really dig the concept. Someone who was influenced by the artist writes about the influential album of the band’s career. In this case, Don McLeese, whose mid-west background gives him a connection to the MC5, who he first saw at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. This changed the way he saw r’n’r music from then on.

Coming from the mid-west myself, I can relate to Don’s revelation. I am a few years younger than him, but had the same type of epiphany in my teens. We both were listening to more progressive forms of rock and taking it very seriously. But when we came upon more visceral music – the MC5 in his case, the NY Dolls in my case – we realized that this is what r’n’r – as opposed to “rock” – was supposed to be. These revelations expanded our horizons and opened us to plenty of other amazing music.

Don does a super job researching the history of the band and comes up with facts that I, one of the biggest MC5 fans in the world, never knew. These books are small and compact, so the background is not exhaustive, but he hits upon the important points – how everyone met each other and how the band was formed and how the politics were merged with the sonic rebellion.

The story does unfold throughout the book and we hear of Elektra signing the band, the quick recording of KOTJ, the subsequent hype by the new rock media which then turned on the band after the record was released. While the record was climbing up into the Top 30 (!) the 5 burn their bridges with Elektra by putting out an offensive ad and putting their logo on it – and sending them the bill for it!

After being dropped, they never recover their momentum even as they are signed to Atlantic Records. The next two albums flop, the band goes through many personal problems and eventually just falls apart. A sad legacy for a band that could have – and actually has since - changed musical history.

This book even briefly tells of everyone’s post-band careers and even mentions the fabulous A True Testimonial DVD which was still held up in lawsuits by Wayne Kramer at the time of the release of the book, but apparently has finally been settled. The DVD is a mind-fucker and should be seen by anyone who cares for r’n’r!

KOTJ is a thoroughly enjoyable and informative read and is certainly worthwhile to anyone who is interested in this incredible band!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sonic's Rendezvous Band 6 CD box set (Easy Action)

I had the privilege of seeing this band in the late 70’s in a small club in Chicago and was even thrilled to momentarily meet them and shake their hands. I don’t remember a lot about that night, but I do remember that they blew me away with their power and musicianship! A fabulous band that I wish I could have seen a lot more!

I’ve picked up the releases that I’ve been able to find of this band, but since they only “officially” recorded two songs, the finds have been few and far between. This mind-boggling box set takes care of the search once and for all!

Beautifully packaged with a “booklet” that is more of a novel with tons of super photos, the 6 CDs cover the career of the band from an early show in 1975 to plenty of rare basement tapes and oddities.

The sound quality fluctuates, but you can always hear everyone and the thunder and lightning crashes through! There are several versions of the several of the same songs throughout, but this gives you an idea of the evolution of the group. There are also tons of tunes that I have never heard so there’s always plenty to entertain you! One of the weirdest things on the whole set is a version of the old tune “Party Lights” originally done by Claudine Clark in 1962! Kinda genius in its bizarreness! Just goes to show that they had a wide range of influences!

One the last disc, there is an incredible jazz tune called “American Boy” which showcases Sonic’s sax playing, which is terrific! I knew that he played, but had never heard him and he is damn impressive!

Too much great stuff for me to cover it all, but basically, if you are a fan of Detroit r’n’r and are not afraid of semi-bootleg sound quality, this set is essential!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Cactus - Cactology

Cactus is a band whose name I had always heard, but I never knew anything about them. When I discovered that Monster Magnet had copped their arrangement of the old blues tune "Evil" from Cactus (thanks Dan!), I thought that it was time that I check 'em out!I found this collection, Cactology (Rhino Records), and discovered that this was a minor super-group, featuring ex-members of Vanilla Fudge (Bogart and Appice - later of Beck, Bogart and Appice among many others), the Amboy Dukes, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and even Buddy Miles' band! This was yet another early 70's Detroit heavy-rock band!

Bogart and Appice had tired of the Vanilla Fudge and were actually trying to put together a band with Jeff Beck (which came later) and Jeff couldn’t do it at the time, so they grabbed Jim McCarty (from the Detroit Wheels and Buddy Miles) and singer Rusty Day (formerly of the Amboy Dukes). The idea was to create a heavy-blues band in the vein of the Jeff Beck Group and Led Zeppelin.

They certainly succeeded in doing that! The overall sound is very similar to these bands, with a superb, massive guitar tone played over a powerful rhythm section. Rusty is a rockin’, raw singer, too and adds harp to fill out the sound, as well.

This collection covers most of their career. Starting with the version of “Evil”, they blast out loud, rude, blues with real originality. “Parchment Farm” is played at super-sonic speed with tons of fast leads and another cool arrangement. I’m sure they were familiar with Blue Cheer’s version, as they cop their line “all I did was shoot my arm”!

“You Can’t Judge a Book By The Cover” is more of a groover and this is followed by their own “One Way…Or Another”. This riff-rocker has a vaguely Hendrix feel – another big influence on the band.

The collection isn’t perfect by any means and “Alaska” simply sounds like a forgettable joke song. But “Long Tall Sally” is given a Humble Pie treatment – this would fit right at home on the Rockin’ the Fillmore album (which I love!). “Rock’n’Roll Children” sounds like a take-off of a Frost song, which isn’t very far-fetched considering they’re both Detroit bands from the same time period.

Some of the later songs are a little lacking, but the guitar work is consistently great throughout, which makes them enjoyable for me! But the previously unreleased “Rumblin’ Man” is an eye-opener! This is an extremely clamorous and ear-splittingly over-the-top take on Link Wray’s “Rumble” with some shouted lyrics over it! This is crazed in the extreme and I wish that they had done more things that sound like this!

Fans of 70’s blues-rock guitar should definitely check this out! Great playing and some truly original takes on the blues genre!

Factotum DVD

Charles Bukowski isn't exactly rock'n'roll - in fact, he seems to have hated the music, in general - but he has certainly influenced many a rocker (incluing myself, who stole many of his phrases for song lyrics!), so I feel justified in reviewing him in this blog!

I know that films based on Bukowski are rarely well received, but I keep hoping for something worthwhile to come along.

I was terribly disappointed by Tales of Ordinary Madness (far too pretentious) and Crazy Love/Love is a Dog From Hell (so loosely based on Buk that it shouldn’t have even used his name). My first viewing of Barfly left me kinda cold – it was far too clean for my tastes – but I warmed up to it and learned to really like it for its own charms. (And who hasn’t used the “to all my friends!” toast in a bar since this movie came out?!)

Factotum received some bad reviews from fans and critics alike, but I actually dig it. As usual, a lot is lost in translation from book to movie. Lots of important parts are left out, but the visuals are pretty damn true to life. I lived in many of the same areas that Bukowski did so I know how dirty and f’k’d up the neighborhoods and apartments are. The places that they used in this flick feel real – it was like going home to my old crappy life watching this.

Matt Dillon portrays a fairly believable Chinaski – a little too handsome, not quite disheveled enough (though people say that Buk wasn’t quite the mess he described himself as) – but not bad. Lili Taylor is a good Jan, though, again, not quite right – far too young and too good looking – though she does give the character a hint of desperation.

There are stories that are abruptly ended rather than carried through to the proper conclusion, but obviously, movies never have the time that books have. Still, it’s not bad as a short portrait of a period of Bukowski’s life. I doubt that there will ever be a perfect Buk movie – it doesn’t seem like anyone is brave enough to do that – but in the meantime this and Barfly will have to do.

(PS – I was able to pick this up pretty cheap, so look for a used copy!)

The Jam - In The City and This Is the Modern World

Coming out of the punk movement to create a new mod scene, the Jam capitalized on punk’s infatuation with 60’s punk and garage and expanded upon this to include mod faves such as the Who, the Kinks and the Small Faces.

As a debut, In The City was a declaration of intent, with the sharp, matching suits, mod haircuts and Rickenbacker guitars. The songs were fueled with the new punk energy but were definitely an homage to the past. “Art School” is an obvious reference to the fact that so many of the 60’s leaders came from there. Mod themes abound in songs like “Away From the Numbers”, “Sounds From the Street” and, of course, “Non-stop Dancing”.

They also put their stamp on oft-covered 60’s tunes such as the Batman theme and “Slow Down”. Though in the latter they inexplicably change the lyrics to “if you want our love the best” instead of “want our love to last”. This has always bugged me and I could never understand why such an obvious line was rewritten.

I had the privilege of seeing the Jam shortly after the first album was released – unfortunately they were opening for Angel, a semi-progressive, KISS-styled band in a small town in Indiana! Needless to say, the vast majority of the audience despised them, causing them to walk off the stage at one point. But, they returned and still put on a fabulous show filled with wild energy, non-stop leaping around and plenty of aggression.

This Is the Modern World is their sophomore effort and still retains the edge of the first record, but with a little more songwriting refinement. This is not to say that they were wimping out – far from it! The title song blasts off like a desperate demand, not simply an observation. There are more varied emotion shown on this record, from “I Need You” to “Life From a Window” to the sublime “Tonight at Noon”.

Their ode to the 60’s on this outing is “In the Midnight Hour”, showing the mods’ love of soul as well as high energy r’n’r.

Personally, I think that even by the next record, All Mod Cons, while good, starts to show their decline. They were never bad per se, and I do like some of the later songs, but for me, these first two albums are by far their best.

And don’t even get me started on the abomination that was the Style Council! For some odd reason I was hanging out with some mods in the 80s and they put on one of the SC records and I literally thought it was a joke and starting laughing! It was such bad disco I couldn’t imagine anyone liking it, much less mods! Thankfully, Paul Weller got over that nonsense and returned to real songwriting in his solo career.

But for punk-fueled mod madness, check out these two records!

The Dead Boys - Young, Loud and Snotty

An offshoot of the crazed Cincinnati group, Rocket from the Tombs (not to be confused with the band who ripped off their name, Rocket From the Crypt – real original guys!), the Dead Boys (whose name came from a RFTT song) moved to New York under the tutelage of the Ramones (after hosting them in Ohio) and became stars of the second wave of punk rock.

Retaining several songs as well as many of the influences of the previous band, the Dead Boys still had hard rock tendencies and came off as an updated version of Iggy and the Stooges – especially with singer Stiv Bators’ on-stage antics.

But they really did have great songs. Some truly dark edges and moody lyrics, these cats set themselves apart from most of the other punk bands. Cheetah Crome was an original and noisy lead guitarist, who could also play some nice melodies. Starting out without a bass player, rhythm guitarist Jimmy Zero and drummer Johnny Blitz created a tight backup for the tunes. This was further augmented when bassist Jeff Magnum joined. Sure, they could be sloppy live, but they were a real rock’n’roll band and did know how to play.

The band seemed destined to follow in the footsteps of bands like the MC5 and Dictators – putting out a great first album and when that didn’t hit, they went overboard trying to clean up their act on the second record. We Have Come For Your Children failed as a pop record despite the painfully clean sound (weak guitars have no place on a Dead Boys album!) and failed as a punk record due to a number of weak songs (though there were still a few gems). The band was dropped and broke up shortly after the failure of WHCFYC. A pity – it would have been interesting to see what they would have come up with on a third outing.

But Young Loud and Snotty is considered a classic punk album for good reason – hell, just the anthemic “Sonic Reducer” only would garner this honor – if only for being one of the most covered punk songs of all time!

But, the whole record is f’k’ing great! “All This and More”, “What Love Is” (with nice, well-sung harmonies!), “Ain’t Nothing to Do”, “Caught With the Meat in Your Mouth” – all real songs with tons of intensity and attitude. The lyrics have a tendency to misogyny but I always thought that was tongue-in-cheek, though I could be wrong!

They also poured on the moodiness with tunes like “Not Anymore”. This may be a little over-dramatic, but it does sound desperate! Interestingly enough, the rough mixes of this album was released on Bomp! Records and Cheetah plays some excellent harmony leads on this number – odd the Genya Raven removed those from the final mix. “High Tension Wire” continues in this vein, as well. I always dug this heavy-darkness balancing out some of the outright goofiness of a few of the other songs.

Their mid-west garage roots are displayed in their cover of “Hey Little Girl”, recorded live – showing the close roots between 60’s punk and 70’s punk.

There’s an ode to then-groupie Lydia Lunch in “I Need Lunch”, the aforementioned “High Tension Wire” and then closing with a new take on a RFTT’s song, “Down in Flames”, which is where the band name came from. This is true high-energy, uproarious madness and a fantastic ending to the album!

I actually find it hard to believe that anyone who loves wild r’n’r does not already have this record, but if you don’t – get it now! The “Younger, Louder, Snottier” rough mix CD is more than worth it, as well!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The MC5 - Teen Age Lust

Yes, I’m going through another one of my MC5 kicks – but that happens pretty regularly with me seeing as I think they are the greatest r’n’r band ever to exist!
A few years ago Total Energy Records put out Teen Age Lust, which showcases the 5 at the Saginaw Civic Center January 1, 1970. Funnily enough, someone I know had a tape of this show way back in the mid-70’s and though our group of friends were all huge Detroit rock fans, he couldn’t find anyone who was interested in putting this out! There wasn’t enough of an audience for this back then, believe it or not!

Anyway, while the sound quality leaves a bit to be desired, it really isn’t bad for an audience tape and is actually one of the best of the 5’s unofficial live releases. You can hear all of the instruments and vocals (though there are some drop-outs) and it shows the power and majesty of this band in its hey-day.

Opening with the usual “Ramblin’ Rose”, they then blast into two tunes from the then-new Back in the USA – “Human Being Lawnmower” and “Tonight”. These songs positively roar and display just how amazing their second album could have been if it hadn’t been cleaned up in the extreme.

“Rama Lama FaFaFa” is the fantastic riff-rocker from the first album which then goes into a phenomenal version of James Brown’s “This is a Man’s World” with the twin guitars attacking the string parts from the original tune and Tyner and the band showing how much they love soul and the blues. These cats did some incredible covers and always made them their own, no matter how great the original was.

Another blast from the current album – “Teen Age Lust” – explodes and then comes the now-oft-covered “Looking at You” which went through many changes throughout their career, but this is pretty close to the studio version although with a little more crash and chaos.

Another unbelievable cover is their take on Jody Reynolds’ masterpiece “Fire of Love”. Wayne and Fred’s guitars are simple but super-powerful as they do a brontosaurus stomp through the song. Tyner again is in terrific voice and they create another extremely influential tune.

“Shakin’ Street” jumps out of the speakers with a lot louder version of the song – minus the acoustic guitars from the studio take, of course – which is terrific even though it is slightly out of tune.

They close with a medley of “Starship”/”Kick Out the Jams” and their infamous “Black to Comm”. As much as I love the free-jazz excursions of the KOTJ album, this “Starship” ends just before that can start and blasts into a full version of KOTJ before the mania of Black to Comm takes over. Even this song is free from the jazzier elements and is simply a wild r’n’r tune!

This is an amazing document of the best r’n’r band ever in its prime. Sure, there are warts, blemishes, flubbed chords and erratic sound, but gawdam, the energy is insane! Definitely worth the price and again, this is the best live recording I have heard of the band to date.

The MC5 - Babes in Arms

Of course, this is another must-have for any MC5-fan (and who isn’t?!). Lots of alternative cuts, hard to find versions and even some previously-unreleased songs. This is a true treasure trove for those of us who could never get enough of the band!

Some of the variants are very minor (the only differences on “Tutti Frutti” are drum-stick clicks counting off the beginning and a “ha” from Tyner at the end), some of the alternative mixes really change the sound (I really dig these mixes of the High Times material, which I thought had a pretty muddy sound throughout) and some of the songs are changed quite a bit – like “Gotta Keep Moving” which is fantastic on this record.

There is the unreleased title song from the soundtrack of the movie “Gold”, one of the last things the group recorded, as well as some of the first tunes they ever did. The latter includes a noisy take on “I Can Only Give You Everything”, a cool, us-versus-them original called “One of the Guys”, “I Just Don’t Know” (a fantastically noisy take on “I’m In the Mood”) and a feedback-drenched “Looking at You” – one of the wildest songs ever recorded in the history of music! Incredibly powerful chaos and madness! These recordings aren’t on the edge – they are far over the edge! Pretty damn near perfect, definitve r’n’r!

I can’t recommend this record enough – far and away the best of the posthumous releases for this band. Absolutely essential for anyone who loves r’n’r! I’d even recommend this as an introduction to the band, as well as for those of us who have loved them for decades.

The MC5 - High Times

The third MC5 shows the unusual evolution this band went through. Starting off with the unbridled mania of the first, live album, Kick Out the Jams, they went to the opposite corner for Back in the USA and created a super-clean record of 3 minute pop songs (fantastic, rockin’, political pop songs, but far removed from the insanity of the first record). By the third record they decided to produce themselves and try to create a synthesis of the first two. The result is an incredible r’n’r record, but not without problems.

One issue I have is that I believe that this record has a fairly muddy sound throughout and part of that is probably due to the fact that the band was producing itself and didn’t have anyone to rein them in when they wanted to throw something else into the mix. While excellent riffs fly in and out of the tunes, sometimes there are so many layers that it is difficult to wrap your head around the rock.

This album really showcases Fred Smith and, since this is the first record with individual songwriting credits, we know where credit is due. Opening with Fred’s homage to a sacrilegious nun, “Sister Anne”, we get wild, almost-off-time riffs, superb lyrics and a great r‘n’r song!

Fred wrote half of the album and “Baby Won’t Ya” follows up as another catchy high-energy tune. Wayne Kramer only has 2 contributions to High Times and “Miss X” quite frankly is a weaker point. Not bad, but nowhere near to his potential.

Drummer Dennis Thompson is represented by the mind-boggling “Gotta Keep Movin’”. This is one of the most straight-ahead rockers on the record and has some unreal guitar work by the boys. I have no idea what other material Dennis contributed to, but he was a helluva writer!

Tyner’s sole song is “Future/Now”, which is a great, up-beat tune with cool lyrics and amazing twin leads, once again showing why Fred and Wayne were one of the best guitar teams ever in rock. This song is split in two with a second half simply tremeloed guitars and Rob’s tremeloed voice. Nice imagery but it definitely slows down the pace.

But we blast back in with Wayne’s “Poison”, which is one of his better tunes. Nice breakdowns, cool arrangement, good use of dynamics, more superb guitar-work and all-in-all some cool rock!
Fred comes back with “Over and Over” with more dynamics, more tremeloed guitars, and more straight-ahead rock! Good call-and-response head-shaker!
Closing with Smith’s “Skunk (Sonically Speaking)”, we see why Dennis was nick-named “Machine Gun” Thompson as he starts it off with a cool, syncopated drum lick and is joined by numerous Detroit luminaries banging percussion, including Bob Seger (who, you must remember, was a real Detroit rocker at this time). When the band kicks in, we get yet another high-energy riff-rocker, not unlike the opener. This threatens to go overboard with layer upon layer of instruments, but the guitars really play off of each other and when the horns jump in, it really works as a mind-blowing, crazily rockin’ free jazz experiment. Truly freakin’ breathtaking and I think this is the culmination of all of their jazz/rock fusion experiments. Kinda like their version of the Stooges’ “Funhouse” – still wild r’n’r, but with cool jazzy inputs.

As I said, this is not a perfect album, but is still essential to any rock’n’roll collection.